A Message from Special Envoy Randy Berry:
Working Together in Support of Dignity for All
October 12, 2016
When he announced my appointment as the United States’ first-ever Special Envoy for the Human Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) Persons, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry stressed that advancing human rights globally is the “heart and conscience of [U.S.] diplomacy.” This heart beats for all – every person on this planet deserves to live free from persecution, bias, and hate.
As Special Envoy, I am thrilled to be returning to Australia and the Pacific, a region I know well from working and studying here since the 1980s. The friendship and community I experienced reflects the shared values that define our countries, and guide our regional and global leadership in the 21st century.
In our shared efforts to prevent violence and discrimination against the LGBTI community, we have many allies. The United States is a proud member of the Equal Rights Coalition, launched in July 2016. In this Coalition, we are joined by more than 30 countries from across the globe committed to eliminating violence and discrimination and promoting equality for all.
Here in the Pacific, Australia and New Zealand are important partners in the Equal Rights Coalition, and in the broader struggle for human rights. We share core values – freedom, fairness, and equality – that lead us to respect and champion human rights around the world.
I am visiting Australia this week to explore how the United States and Australia can better support our regional friends and allies, to protect the human rights of LGBTI persons across the Pacific. We can do more to address and prevent acts of violence, raise awareness of civil society efforts that challenge discriminatory legislation, and mitigate the fear and stigma that underpins such persecution.
The United States stands with our neighbors from LGBTI communities in the Pacific as they fight for their lives and their dignity. Debates and discussions on equality at home are also critical as we work towards a more inclusive world where the rights of all persons, regardless of who they are or whom they love, are protected on the basis of equality and with dignity.
I look forward to engaging in this effort with the delegates at the LGBTI Pacific Youth Forum, organized by Kaleidoscope Human Rights Foundation. Kaleidoscope has brought together a diverse and exciting group of 40 young activists from 12 nations, including Australia, New Zealand, and Pacific Island countries. Events such as this Forum increase the capacity of activists across the region, build stronger networks, and generate momentum for change.
Pacific Island communities will also benefit from increased resources through the Global Equality Fund (GEF). Launched in 2011 by former Secretary Clinton, the GEF aims to empower LGBTI persons to live freely and exercise their rights without fear of discrimination or abuse. The GEF provides critical resources and diplomatic support to civil society organizations and human rights defenders working to advance and protect the human rights of LGBTI persons in over 80 countries.
The Fund is a collaborative effort supported by over 25 like-minded partners from government, the private and philanthropic sectors, and civil society. By joining the Fund, Australia affirms its global and regional leadership. We hope Australia’s membership will inspire others to join the Fund, both from the public and private sectors.
These joint efforts to defend and promote the human rights of LGBTI persons can give hope to every individual who struggles to find acceptance. Advancing inclusive and enabling environments that garner free expression, and freedom from fear and violence, will benefit us all.
I have been lucky to find such support as a student and a diplomat in the region and through my time here I’m proud to say that I’ve met many longtime friends and colleagues.
Thank you Sydney for your dynamic role in promoting human rights, in the Pacific and beyond. I look forward to a productive visit.